A Washington state man who recently traveled to China has been diagnosed with the coronavirus, becoming the first confirmed US case of the newly identified illness that has killed six people in China and sickened some 300 others across Asia, Reuters reports.
The patient, identified only as a man in his 30s, fell ill over the weekend after traveling to his hometown in China and was diagnosed with the coronavirus on Monday, Washington Governor Jay Inslee told reporters at a press conference in Seattle.
The coronavirus, which causes respiratory symptoms similar to a cold or flu, has been linked to a seafood market in Wuhan, the largest city in central China with a population of about 11 million. That market has since been shut down.
The US Centers for Disease Control has raised its travel alert for Wuhan to a level 2, calling for enhanced precautions.
Under that alert level, the CDC recommends travelers to Wuhan should avoid contact with sick people, animals or animal markets.
At the Seattle press conference, CDC Medical Officer Satish Pillai said that all travelers from Wuhan would be directed to five US airports – in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Atlanta and San Francisco – for screening.
CDC officials said they have begun tracking down individuals who came in contact with the patient, who lives alone, to check them for symptoms, but so far have not found any additional patients.
Besides the United States, cases outside of China have been reported in South Korea, Thailand and Japan.
The CDC said it has screened more than 1,200 passengers since Jan. 17. None of them have been sent on for additional testing.
The US traveler from Washington state had returned on Jan. 15, arriving at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, which is not on the US list for enhanced screening.
The patient sought care at a medical facility in Everett, Washington, and was treated for the illness. Based on his travel history and symptoms, healthcare professionals suspected the new coronavirus.
Specimens were taken from the patient and sent to the CDC for testing. The agency said it has developed a new test that allowed it to identify the presence of the virus in a traveler.
As is often the case, preliminary information suggests older adults with underlying health conditions may be at increased risk of severe disease, according to the CDC.
The agency is working with health officials in China and globally to better understand the virus and any potential treatments, but US officials have said it could take at least a year of testing before any vaccine could be used on the public.
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